Siobhan A. Reardon: LJ’s 2015 Librarian of the Year

President and Director, Free Library of Philadelphia

Photo ©2015 Jon Roemer
Photo ©2015 Jon Roemer

She engineered the creation of an ambitious, five-year strategic plan, underpinned by a powerful mission to advance literacy, guide learning, and inspire curiosity through the Free Library of Philadelphia (FLP). Siobhan A. Reardon had been in the director’s chair for less than a month when FLP was handed a 20 percent cut and branch hours were drastically reduced. Library state funding was slashed by 34 percent. In 2010, with funding trickling back into the budget, FLP launched a two-year process to formalize a new strategic plan. “We agreed that we had to stop trying to be all things to all people; we just didn’t have the money,” Reardon says.

Instead, her plan refocused the role of the library, identifying five target populations (job seekers, ­entrepreneurs, new Americans, children under five, and people with disabilities). The plan outlines a cluster model to streamline and enhance neighborhood library services, share resources and staff among neighborhood libraries, and collaborate with community leaders to develop programs and services most needed by residents.

Reardon restructured the 800-member staff to achieve that goal and to improve efficiencies, internal communications, and patron experience, while creating critical new positions such as a digital resource specialist. Those achievements alone could qualify Reardon, the first woman to serve as president and director of FLP, to be named the LJ 2015 Librarian of the Year, sponsored by Baker & Taylor, but she has achieved much more in a short tenure that is marking a turnaround for this important but embattled library. This article was published in Library Journal‘s January 1, 2015 issue.